I´m sure you´ll remember me. I was the kid in gym class who couldn´t do a single chin up; the one who took a basketball to the head when it was passed; the one who sustained rubber burns from Dodge Ball. In fact, in my entire life the closest I´ve come to a personal sports triumph was when I got a "birdie" in a golf game. (A golf purist may argue that whacking a passing goose with my golf ball and making him "honk" doesn´t qualify, but, why quibble over details?)
So, when my son asked that I teach him how to play football last fall, you can understand why I felt some apprehension. It´s not like I could pass the responsibility off to my husband either, since he is only marginally less "Erkle-like" than me when it comes to sports. Admittedly, I felt a little guilty, too. After all, what kind of parents neglect to teach their only son the most important male bonding pastime in the U.S.A.?
It was time to set things right.
I went to my local toy emporium and purchased a Nerf Football. (It seemed the wisest choice, given the fact that I was going to be catching the ball at some point with my face.) I watched some pro games, scoured the Internet for league rules, and soon, was as capable and football savvy as Mike Ditka. Well, maybe Mike Ditka´s cleaning lady. Nevertheless, I felt ready.
The first game progressed fairly well. After a few minutes, some neighbors and a few kids joined in, and we started to have fun.
By the fourth quarter, our ragtag team (myself, my son Ryan, three friends and our dog, Yoshi,) was just five points behind the opposing team. Next to Yoshi, I was the fastest runner, and so was elected receiver for the game´s final play. We took our positions. The ball was snapped to Ryan. He feinted left, I ran right. He threw a long bomb. The ball arced through the air, a neon orange missile rocketing toward me, and miracle of miracles, I caught it. Grinning, tucking the ball under my arm and ready to lead my team to victory, I turned, barreling toward my goal…and ran into a tree.
Stars twinkled, birdies went "tweet, tweet," and I thought I heard Celine Dion singing "God Bless America.” Once I regained consciousness and pacified the little neighbor girl (who apparently wigs out at the sight of blood), I managed to limp off the gridiron unassisted.
The next day I announced my retirement. Since then, the press have remained indifferent, the neighbors are still laughing, and my son has moved on to karate, tennis and other sports where I can do what I do best—sit on the sidelines and cheer!